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Food Business Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

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September 03, 2017, to September 10, 2017

Unilever Tests High-Tech Direct-To-Consumer Marketing Scheme

Unilever’s Hellman’s mayo brand is working with the Quiqup on-demand delivery app and platform in a direct-to-consumer marketing test. Users will be able to choose a recipe, then have all of the ingredients delivered to their door within an hour. Hellman’s is betting that consumers will appreciate the free time provided by the service. Quiqup, a member of the Unilever Foundry’s network of start-ups, developed the concept that is targeted at Millennial shoppers in London who are likely to make “impulse purchases.”

Discount Grocer Aldi Gives Big Midwest Competitors A Good Run For Their Money

Data from grocery market researcher Shelby Report show that discount retailer Aldi is making headway in the Midwest against big players like regional retailers and Walmart. Aldi’s market share for its 45 stores in the Kansas/Missouri area was 2.8 percent of total retail sales (all commodity value) of $10.27 billion, compared with 1.5 percent in 2016. Market share in the $13 billion Missouri/Illinois/Indiana/Kentucky market increased from 2.4 percent to 4.4 percent; in the $10.88 billion Minnesota market it grew to 3.2 percent; and in the $18.79 billion Ohio/West Virginia/Kentucky market, it grew to 2.9 percent from 1.6 percent in 2016.

Plant-Based Burger Chain Poised For National Expansion From Pacific Northwest

Next Level Burger has opened a new plant-based burger joint in Seattle, Wash., its fourth after three in Oregon. Other locations are planned, along with an eventual national expansion, thanks to a partnership with Whole Foods Market. The company’s menu features a Signature Burger, Bleu BBQ and Sausage Bacon burgers, as well as “next level” hot dogs and sandwiches, fries, tots, and hand-spun dairy-free milkshakes. Menu item ingredients are “responsibly sourced” and non-GMO; all produce is organic.

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August 27, 2017, to September 03, 2017

Lucky British Pod People In Sainsbury’s Food Waste Test

British retail grocery chain Sainsbury’s is testing a device dubbed a “Fresh Pod” that sits in a household refrigerator and absorbs ethylene gas emitted by fresh produce as it ages, helping to keep it fresher four times longer. The technology, already in use in many commercial fridges, could help reduce the average £700 ($900) of food binned by U.K. homes every year. A village council in the U.K. won £32k ($41k) from Sainsbury’s to test the devices among its citizenry as part of the company’s five-year food waste initiative.

New Spray Coating Preserves Fruits Much Longer

An advanced plant-based technology developed by South Korean scientists not only adds nutrients to fruits, it prolongs their shelf life. The technology comes in the form of a five-second spritz coating of Iron (III)-tannic acid-metal-organic coordination complex (Fe(III)-TA-MOC) for fruits. The spray forms a five nanometers-thick layer (more after additional coats). A field test that analyzed the post-harvest shelf-life of mandarin oranges found that, after 28 days of storage at 77ºF, more than a quarter of the uncoated mandarin oranges (10 out of 37) were rotten and covered with mold. Those spray-coated remained edible. A similar test on strawberries found that, after 58 days of storage at 77ºF, 56.3 percent of sprayed fruit were edible, but only 6.3 percent of the unsprayed.

Food Scientist Welcomes Pasta’s Comeback

A Colorado State University food scientist laments the decline in popularity of pasta after some diet gurus demonized the word “carbohydrate” in the 1990s. Melissa Wdowik acknowledges there should have been some reduction in consumption of pasta: portion sizes had grown too large and unhealthful, especially when topped with fatty, salty sauces and gobs of Italian sausage. But pasta is inching its way back onto plates and menus, and that’s a good thing because it provides nutritionally rich, complex carbohydrates needed for brain and muscle health. Other benefits: enriched pasta is low in sodium, rich in iron and B vitamins; whole wheat pasta provides fiber and magnesium; bean-based noodles also offer fiber and minerals; and soba (buckwheat) noodles are a gluten-free source of antioxidants, carbs, fiber and minerals.

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August 20, 2017, to August 27, 2017

Use Of Biodegradable Materials Is Changing The Packaging World

Companies in the food, beverages, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals industries are heavy users of returnable bulk shipment packaging, including pallets, bulk boxes, barrels, and plastic drums. It’s a $9 billion market that depends heavily on synthetic, petroleum-based plastics – the bane of the enviro-conscious world. Companies like Dow Chemical and Braskem, experimenting with environmentally-friendly packaging materials, are investing in bio-based polymers and biomass. New packaging options have led to another emerging trend that offers an ancillary benefit to vendors: they are more easily customizable in terms of height, length, and breadth.

Company Certifies Gluten-Free Levels For Food Companies

As the market for gluten-free foods continues to expand, food companies need to be able to support gluten-free safety claims. Consultancy SGS provides three “gluten-free” certification levels. The crossed grain symbol gluten-free product certification vouches for 20 mg/km (ppm) or less of gluten; the gluten-free certification organization (GFCO) level assures 10 ppm or less of gluten and no barley; and the gluten-free certification program (GFCP) assures 20 ppm or less. According to SGS, allergen (including gluten) risk management should be a key part of any food safety management system, supported by good manufacturing practices (GMP) and hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) programs.

Smart Labeling Technology Could Revolutionize Retail Food Industry

Advocates of smart packaging and labeling that use short-range wireless technology – aka, near field communication – say that interactive labels can provide product information while reducing cost and waste, and boosting store profits. The technology doesn’t require a separate app like QR codes. Consumers need only tap the phone and receive info, without any additional steps. To advance the use of the technology, the NFC Forum has partnered with the Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association to create the smart labels. It will be a while before the technology hits grocery stores, but NFC is compatible now with millions of contactless cards and readers worldwide.

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August 13, 2017, to August 20, 2017

Courts Pass “Natural” Food Cases To FDA, Which Dithers About Definition

Food-related class action lawsuits have been rising over the last nine years, but dropped eight percent last year. A law firm that keeps track of the suits said the decline last year could be the result of the FDA grappling with the claim “natural.” There were 145 lawsuits filed in 2016, mostly in California and New York, alleging false labeling related to ingredients or the type of processing used in a product. The decrease in lawsuits seems to be related to the frequent application of the “primary jurisdiction” doctrine in food litigation. A judge can stay or dismiss actions pending an administrative agency’s resolution of a matter, viz., the FDA’s ongoing exploration of the definition of “natural."

NYC’s Chain Restaurants Sue Over Menu Nutrition Labeling Enforcement

Organizations representing New York City chain restaurants, convenience stores, and grocery stores with more than 15 locations nationwide have sued in federal court to stop enforcement of a menu nutrition-labeling law set to begin on August 21. The city decided to proceed with enforcement after the FDA delayed until 2018 implementation of requirements established under the Affordable Care Act. The suit claims its members would “face the risk of irreparable harm” – from fines and other business disruption costs – if the city goes ahead with enforcement.

Company Says Sweet Potato-Based Sweetener Is More Healthful Than HFCS

A North Carolina food ingredients company that specializes in pioneering applications of sweet potatoes grown in the state has developed a sweetener it says is a more healthful alternative to high-fructose corn syrup and honey. “Carolina Sweet,” developed by Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients, is a 75-Brix (a measurement of sweetness), vegetable-based clean label sweetener that is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. CIFI says it naturally adds consistency, allowing for the reduction or elimination of thickening agents.

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August 06, 2017, to August 13, 2017

Active Organic Chickens Offer Perdue Some Major Benefits

Poultry producer Perdue Farms is spurning traditional ways of growing chickens. Some long-time opponents – namely, animal welfare advocates – seem to approve. Representatives of the Humane Society of the U.S., Compassion in World Farming, and Mercy for Animals were positively impressed during a recent tour of facilities. They saw windows and light, and chickens flapping their wings and running around. The bright, airy environment and activity of the birds are very different from current methods of raising poultry. But Perdue acknowledges it’s not all about chicken welfare. The meat from more active, organically grown chickens is higher quality, more tender, and a different color. “Activity is the key,” says CEO Jim Perdue.

Direct-To-Consumer Distribution Of Vitamins: The Future Is Now

National Business Journal (NBJ) says vitamin supplement producers have embraced the trend toward direct-to-consumer distribution, now the largest sales channel for multivitamins. Use of vending machines and other novel modes of multivitamin delivery – could drone delivery be far off? – are gaining legitimacy. According to NBJ, new delivery technologies and formats could finally convince the federal government to allow multivitamins as a permitted purchase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). At any rate, NBJ expects vitamin sales to surpass $15 billion by 2021, led by multivitamins.

FDA Allows Heart Health Claim For Soybean Oil

The FDA has approved a soybean producer’s health claim that soybean oil consumption cuts the risk of heart disease. According to industry analyst Hartman Group, heart health leads the list of health concerns among American consumers. Bunge, the world’s largest producer of soybean oil, said its FDA filing included summaries of clinical studies showing the potential benefits of soybean oil to heart health. Those benefits are based on soybean oil’s positive effect on cholesterol levels and its high concentration of polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids versus other oils and fats. The FDA decision means companies can now claim that soybean oil as an ingredient replacing saturated fat may reduce heart disease risk and lower LDL-cholesterol.

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July 30, 2017, to August 06, 2017

Advanced Card Technology Ensures Food Safety, Prevents Waste

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, getting food to the table devours 10 percent of the U.S. energy budget, half of U.S. land, and 80 percent of fresh water. But 40 percent of the food in the U.S. – $150 billion a year – is never eaten. Natures Frequencies is well aware that the biggest concern of U.S. consumers who ponder whether – and when – to throw out food is safety.  With that in mind, the company developed the Food Freshness Card, a laboratory- and commercially-tested technology to keep food fresher longer. The card combines specific frequencies, elements and customized programs, encoding information on a substrate. It helps assist with freshness all along the food chain, from farm to retailer to the home. The card recently won the United Fresh Innovation Award for the best new food safety solution.

New York City Expands Organic Waste Collection Program

The N.Y. City Department of Sanitation is expanding its organics program of curbside collection of food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste to more residential areas. The expansion to more neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx means two million residents will be able to participate. The department's goal is to make the program available to all New Yorkers by the end of 2018, through either curbside service or neighborhood drop-off sites. The "organic" waste collected is turned into compost, a soil amendment, or renewable energy.

U.K. Supermarket Chain Experiments With Smart Food Label

British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is testing an advanced labeling technology to help customers avoid tossing edible food in the waste bin before its time. The company sticks a color changing label to packets of its own brand sliced ham. The smart label changes from yellow to purple the longer the packet has been open. It is sensitive to temperature as well, because an open pack of ham has a relatively long fridge life when kept below 5º C (41º F). The new label is being used on ham packages in all 601 stores and will be expanded to other foods if consumers like it.

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July 23, 2017, to July 30, 2017

New Green Cola Offers An Alternative To Colas With “Bad Stuff”

A new beverage brand created as a more healthful alternative to cola drinks was launched in the U.K. by Green Room Brands. The drink, which was two years in development, tastes like colas but lacks “all the bad stuff.” Green Cola is sweetened with stevia, caffeinated with green coffee beans, and contains no sugar, preservatives, or aspartame. It is sold in Greece, Romania, Germany, Ireland and Hong Kong, and is available in the U.K. in 330ml cans (70p) and 500ml PET bottles (£1.30).

Catholic Church Reaffirms Its Position On Gluten-Free Communion Wafers

Gluten-free is a major food trend, and a multi-billion-dollar business. But it hasn’t yet breeched the walls of Vatican City and isn’t likely to anytime soon. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church recently advised its bishops worldwide that – celiac disease notwithstanding – there will be no messing around with the basic recipe for communion wafers. The reason? Christ ate bread, made with gluten-rich wheat, and drank wine at the Last Supper, declaring that they were his body and blood. The Catholic Church takes those words literally, not symbolically. As one U.S. theologian said, “Christ did not institute the Eucharist as rice and sake, or sweet potatoes and stout."

Coconut-Based Cream Soda Launches In U.K.

A “grown-up version of cream soda” that debuted successfully in Dubai has launched in the U.K. Big Boss Palm is made from 99.5 percent not-from concentrate coconut water using Thailand-sourced coconuts, and boasts only 50 calories per can. The company says it mixes well with rum, gin, or vodka. Recommended retail price is £1.18 ($1.54) per unit.

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July 16, 2017, to July 23, 2017

Hangzhou Wahaha Group Buys Smart Beverage Vending Machines From DeepBlue

China’s largest beverage vendor is taking a step beyond FMCG toward automated retail with the signing of a 10-year contract with DeepBlue Technology to buy a million TakeGo smart vending machines. The machines use DeepBlue’s quiXmart payment system, as well as machine vision, biometric identification, and deep learning. The machines automatically assign items picked up by customers to a digital shopping cart. Customers are charged using Alipay when they exit.

Protein Bar Company Unveils Line Of Plant-Based Protein Bars, Powders

Protein bar company thinkThin has expanded its product line to include a range of plant protein-based nutritional bars and powders. All of the bars and protein and probiotic powder mixes are soy-free, GMO-free, gluten-free and vegan. Products include Sea Salt Almond Chocolate High Protein Bar, Chocolate Mint High Protein Bar, Belgian Chocolate Protein & Probiotics Powder Mix, and Madagascar Vanilla Bean Protein & Probiotics Powder Mix. They will be sold at Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Target and Walmart nationwide.

Age Of “Clerkless” Shopping Dawns In China

China’s largest companies are promising that “unmanned supermarkets” that apply mobile payment systems technologies are the next big wave in retail shopping. The automated stores use mobile technology to track payments, eliminating the need for cash, checkout lines, checkout counters, and checkout clerks. Alibaba Group CEO Jack Ma recently launched the company’s entry into automated stores with the opening of Tao Cafe in Hangzhou. Only three steps are required: scan a QR code to enter; shop (without employee assistance), then take items to exit; lastly, walk through two exit scanners. Payment is automatically deducted from customer's Alipay account. 

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July 02, 2017, to July 16, 2017

Food Companies Getting Certified As “Clean Label,” Despite Lack Of A Definition

As the “clean” eating trend gathers momentum  in the U.S., a web-based food ingredients tracking initiative has evolved into a certification program. The “Go Clean Label Certified” program, however, lacks a clear legal definition of what constitutes “clean” ingredients. The website lists ingredients that big food companies – so-called “influencers” – have been removing from their products. The founders hope to eventually meet with key food brands and grocery chains to develop an objective definition of clean label. A few brands have gone through a certification process which involves filling out an inquiry form, signing a license agreement, paying license fees, and then undergoing a product evaluation. Approved companies can then stick the Go Clean Label Certified logo on their packaging, website and marketing materials.

Millennials Push Beverage Makers Toward Clean Label

The Millennial generation is driving the clean label trend as they seek drinks that are authentic and healthful, in particular natural, organic and non-GMO. Their preferences are also driving a trend toward premiumization because Millennial consumers are willing to pay a higher price for these characteristics. The result is that beverage manufacturers are asking flavor suppliers for ingredients that reflect Millennial preferences, especially certified organic, non-GMO, natural – and “true-to-nature” – and allergen-free flavors to mention on their labels.

Burger King: No More Human Antibiotics Use In Chicken Supply By 2019

Restaurant Brands International, parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons, announced that it will end the use of antibiotics important to human medicine in its chicken supply by the end of 2018. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 11 of the top 15 U.S. restaurant chains have now committed to some level of “responsible antibiotics use” for their chicken supplies. Nearly half of the U.S. chicken industry has either made a no-antibiotics commitment or is already using responsible practices, NRDC said.

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June 25, 2017, to July 02, 2017

State Governments Target Hunger, Food Waste, Environment

As debates rage at the national level over healthcare, immigration policy, and other issues, state governments are tackling more mundane local problems like food waste, hunger, and environmental protection. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont already have laws on the books that restrict the amount of food and other organic waste (e.g., soiled and compostable paper and yard waste) that can be dumped in landfills. Maryland, New Jersey and New York are pondering similar laws. States are offering tax breaks to farmers and small businesses that donate food rather than throw it into the landfill. They are also limiting the liability of food donors, and standardizing “use by” labels so consumers don’t toss food that is still edible. It’s a significant endeavor: one in seven Americans suffers from “food insecurity,” defined as “limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

Food Sharing Service In English Village Hopes To Expand

The founder of a community fridge in a Hampshire village in England was pretty surprised to find how people from as far away as Germany were interested in her idea, and eager to get her advice. The community fridge in Botley is the fourth in the U.K. to offer food sharing, a concept that not only reduces food waste, it helps people in need. Riki Therivel’s “nice way for neighbors to share food” has become so popular that families regularly use it. Retail grocer Tesco drops off food twice a week as well. It’s providing such a useful service to the community that its temporary home at a local church has become permanent, though the fridge hopes for a larger facility in a shopping center.

When Flies Pig Out, China Reduces Its Food Waste Problem

China, with 1.4 billion of people, has a serious food waste problem. A farm in Sichuan province in the southwestern region of the country is working on it, however, using the larvae of black soldier flies – maggots – to devour mountains of leftover meat, vegetables and fruits. The larvae can eat twice their weight in food refuse. On average, one kilogram of maggots can eat two kilos of garbage in four hours. Not bad considering that each person in the country throws away almost 30 kilograms of food every year. And it’s a sustainable system: the farm processes the maggots into a high-protein animal feed and their feces into an organic fertilizer.
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